Do you have microgreens ripe for harvest but not entirely sure if they are ready to be picked? To help you ensure that your microgreens stay fresh right until you are ready to enjoy them, we have outlined best practices for harvesting and how you will make them being a healthy and tasty addition to your next meal.
They are easy to grow but you don’t want to harvest too soon or too late in the growth process. Knowing how to take care of them and when to harvest is crucial!
When should microgreens be harvested? The timing for harvesting microgreens will largely depend on the grower’s preference and the type of microgreen being harvested. Harvesting can range from 7 days to 25 days of growing time, all depending on when leaves develop. Once the leaves appear to your desired level, you should harvest them, which most often occurs in a 2 to 3-week growth time.
In this article, we will address the steps you should take to harvesting your microgreens as well as the harvest times for different microgreen varieties. Microgreens are fairly easy to grow and can make a great addition to your meals and salads. Understanding how they grow and how you can grow them makes for more bountiful harvests and plenty of microgreens in your future.
When You Should Be Harvesting Microgreens
Microgreens are essentially young vegetables that you harvest before they reach a more mature size. At this size, they are often richer in taste and nutritional value. As mentioned, most microgreens are ready to be harvested after 2-3 weeks, but some seeds grow faster and some require longer growing periods.
The primary indicator you should use for microgreens being harvest-ready is the development of true leaves. This will typically correspond with a 2-3-inch height of the plants. This happens normally around 8-15 days after you first planted the seeds.
A good practice is to make notes when you plant them, their growing period, and when you harvest them. Then you will know when your next crop is ready for harvest.
To fully understand when you should be harvesting microgreens, you will first need to understand the growth process and the indicators you should be looking for to know when the plants are ready to be cut.
The Microgreen Growth Process
While it will vary depending on the types of seeds you are growing (we’ll cover this in a later section), you should be able to harvest microgreens in about 2 to 3 weeks after you plant them. This accounts for the germination process as well as the growth process. Germination is the process of a seed transitioning to a plant. This will only take a couple of days, and then the growth phase can begin.
These are the steps from start to finish in the microgreen growth process:
- Pre-soak seeds: This helps to speed up the germination process; otherwise, it could take weeks to germinate. We recommend 6-12 hours of soaking before you plan to plant. You will want to look at the individual seed instructions as some may require longer soaking periods than others. Some seeds don’t require you to soak them at all!
- Start with seeds and soil: You will want to put a couple of inches of damp potting soil into a dish. This dish can be of any size, but it does not have to be really deep as the roots will not be developing to great lengths. Sprinkle your desired seeds over the soils and cover them with another inch or two of damp soil.
- Microgreen placement: You want to make sure the microgreens are in a sunny location where they can get upwards of 4 hours of sun per day. This can be both indoors and outdoors, depending on sun exposure. You can also cover them during germination with a lid for a greenhouse effect (until seedlings sprout).
- Watering: You want to keep the microgreens moist, but not fully wet. We recommend misting them 1-2 times per day, without soaking them. Make sure you have ample drainage in the bottom of the container so excess water can escape. This watering should be continued daily after the seeds sprout and continue to grow. Especially if they are in sunnier locations, you will need to pay extra attention to keeping them moist.
- Track growth height: Typically, your microgreens will be ready to go once they reach 2-3 inches tall. Another way to gauge their readiness for harvest is to look for the full formation of leaves.
- Harvest: Once you are happy with the height and leaf development, you are ready to harvest! We will go over how you should do this in the next section.
This process goes by pretty quickly, allowing you to enjoy your labor in a short period of time.
The key things to remember are that they get ample sunlight and that you water them daily, but make sure this is a mist, so they do not get soaked!
The Blackout Method
Many people keep their microgreens in the dark for the first few days if they use the blackout method. This is often done to help seeds grow and mimic soil, covering them if this cannot be done in practice. Some reasons you may choose the blackout method include:
- If seeds are placed tightly together, and it would be difficult for leaves to easily emerge.
- Risks of disease related to soil crowded the growing seeds.
These are rare cases when you have to worry about this, but just in case you run into those problems, you can stack the seeds on top of each other in a dark place until the seedlings begin to emerge on the surface of the soil. Make sure you continue to mist them to keep the soil wet, but without overwatering.
How to Harvest Microgreens
Harvesting microgreens is pretty simple but should be done so correctly to get the most out of your crop. Once the microgreens have reached the stage where the true leaves appear, you can use a pair of scissors to cut the plants.
When cutting your microgreens:
- You will want to grab them gently as not to break the leaves. They are small and fragile, meaning you should handle them with care.
- Cut them close to the soil line, but not close enough so you get soil in the greens. Including the stems will help to keep the leaves together and provide you with more substance.
After you cut, if you are planning to eat them immediately, you make sure you give them a thorough rinse before eating! If you are not planning to eat them right away you can store them in a closed container in the fridge. In this case, they should be dry or they will end up mushy.
You can also harvest part of the crop for immediate use and leave remaining still growing! The only thing you should make sure is that you don’t let them continue to grow too long after harvest time, or they will start to mature into their full plant form, no longer serving as a microgreen.
Harvest Times for Different Microgreens
Just as different plants have varying growth times, so do their microgreens. The microgreens are the young versions of some of your favorite plants. Leafy greens, vegetables, and many edible flowers make for flavorful microgreens. The shortest harvest times take around seven days, while the longest come in around 25 days.
There is no particular rhyme or reason for some plant’s ability to harvest more quickly than others. You will want to do your research on normal growth times, so you know what to expect for successful growth and harvest. Most of the microgreens will be harvested within 2 to 3 weeks, as we have mentioned.
These are the harvest times for some of the most popular and easiest to grow microgreens. When we refer to the growing period, we consider three parts; the germination (blackout period), the growth (sunlight) period, and then finally the harvest time. This is the period when you want to cut your microgreens and enjoy them!
Pea: Almost any pea variety will fall into the same growth categories and flavor profiles. The pea microgreens are typically ready to be harvested after 10-14 days of growth. The flavors are typically characterized by sweetness.
Mustard: If you are looking for something with a little more bite, you should consider mustard microgreens. They usually take 8-10 days to harvest and are a bit spicier than the full-grown mustard plant.
Broccoli: Very nutritious and easy to grow; they take around eight days to harvest. They are generally compared to the taste of cabbage and other mild vegetables.
Radish: Similar growth patterns to broccoli, radish should also be ready to harvest in under ten days. They are characterized by a peppery flavor that will add some interesting layers to any dish or salad.
Garden Cress: In the same family as watercress, this herb is ready for harvest in 8-12 days. It also has a peppery flavor that can also be a bit bitter in taste.
Arugula: Just like their adult version, they are characterized by a peppery flavor. This is another fast-growing microgreen that is ready to harvest in 5 to 7 days.
Basil: While they take upwards of 20 days to harvest, they are easy to watch over and give you some amazing tasting microgreens (similar to that of their adult plant but richer).
You can grow microgreens from almost any herb or vegetable and play around with different ones to find the ones that grow and taste the best for you. Experiment with a variety of microgreens that are ready at varying times for a wider variety of flavors. The longer harvest times are well worth the wait (try carrots in microgreen form!).
Will microgreens grow out after harvest?
In general, microgreens will not grow out after you have harvested them. When you harvest them you cut close to the soil line so you can get the most out of your crop. When you cut them like this, they will not regrow.
For microgreens to regrow, you have to cut them just above the lowest leaf of the stem. By doing this, you won’t get much out of your crop. For this reason, there is less value in trying to regrow your microgreens than to harvest and get the maximum health and nutritious greens from your crops.
How long do Microgreens last after harvest?
After you have harvested your microgreens they can last for around 2 weeks if you store them properly. The best way to store them is by refrigerating them in a plastic bag or container or dehydrating them (if you want to eat them as a healthy crunchy snack).
What is important and as mentioned earlier is that when you store your microgreens in the fridge, they must be dry when you place them in a container. If they are wet or damp, they will not last as long. You’ll find that they get mushy and will start to smell.
What Are The Benefits of Growing and Eating Microgreens
Why microgreens? Beyond their ease to grow, they are also really good for you. These young plants offer greater nutritional value and flavor than most of the plants when they reach maturity. They also add an interesting element to your dishes, both aesthetically and for flavor profiles. Let’s dive into the range of benefits that microgreens provide.
Microgreens are not only fun to grow, but they are packed with nutrients that you need! Incorporating these into your diet can help to promote a healthier lifestyle and result in benefits to your health. There are multiple health benefits you can gain by growing and eating microgreens:
Nutritional value: Vitamins and minerals will be different based on the type of microgreen you choose to use. These young plants are often highly concentrated in their nutrient contents! Some of the most valuable nutrients include iron zinc and potassium. Micronutrients are largely deemed antioxidants.
Lower disease risks: Eating vegetables and incorporating them regularly into your diet has been linked to lower levels of disease. This includes heart health. Eating plenty of produce also helps to maintain higher energy levels and lower rates of obesity. Some microgreens have high levels of lutein in them, which has been associated with skin health and fighting certain types of cancer (reference WebMD)
Growing a wide variety in large numbers can help to supplement your meals and allow you to incorporate healthier recipes when you have the plants easily accessible to you. Knowing that microgreens are growing at home may help you to make better decisions about what you want to eat and make!
Growing your own microgreens is not only easy, but it presents some economic advantages. Finding microgreens in wide varieties can be challenging when already fully grown. If you do find them, they will be much more expensive for a smaller quantity than purchasing seeds would be. You can produce much more yield for much lower costs on your own!
Growing your own produce can save you lots of money in the long run, but you have to take care of the crops. Making sure they are properly maintained, especially after harvest, will allow for the crops to sustain themselves over time. As we mentioned, microgreens do not always regrow the best, but trying to salvage some of the soil can be useful for the next batch.
If you become particularly inspired and nail the technique, you could even produce them in large enough quantities to sell. While this will require much more intensive infrastructure, it can be beneficial. Restaurants, especially those with a health focus, have great demand for these. Producing for a farmer’s market or local stores may be your best bet! We do recommend looking further into this, though!
Access to Variety of Microgreens
Finding a wide variety of microgreens at your grocery store can be difficult. Opposed to searching everywhere for your ideal variety, you can grow the ones you want at home! All you need is access to seeds, which you can find online or at your local grocery store in dozens of varieties. You can then grow them in a variety of crops, so you have multiple flavors for all your favorite dishes.
Microgreens are used in a variety of meals, but some of the most popular applications include:
Garnishes: The small plants are both flavorful and beautiful additions to your plate. Put them on top of almost anything, including meats, pasta, fish, and pizza! You can also add a salad element to your pizza to get a lot of greens and nutrients on top.
Salads: Adding microgreens to your salad gives you varying textures as well as additional flavors to the greens you incorporate into your dish.
Burgers: Instead of going with the same old lettuce, try microgreens. They are easier to bite into and have more complex flavor profiles. Plus, they look nicer! These are also popular and healthy additions to a wide variety of sandwiches.
Shakes: Being lightweight, you can easily add them to smoothies and shakes without a lot of bulk. We do recommend adding in fruits and other strong flavors to combat the intensity of some of the microgreen flavors. We recommend vegetable or leafy green microgreens because they most closely mimic their full-grown plant. Carrots in microgreen form taste fairly similar!
Pesto and salad dressings: Adding some additional nutrients to these sauces is easy and brings up the overall health and value of your meal.
Salsas: Spicing up your salsas with microgreens adds additional flavor but also makes it much more nutritious. You can eat more chips knowing you’re getting more vitamins in!
Get creative with your microgreens. They can go on and with just about everything and can help to enhance flavor profiles in a lot of ways. Some people will even eat them on their own if they like the taste enough!
Some Last Words
Microgreens are easy and swift to grow and we know that they are such a healthy addition to any meal. Harvesting your microgreens can be done quite quickly, with most falling into the 2 to 3-week category. Because these grow much more quickly than the fully mature plants, you can easily harvest and grow new ones quickly for more nutrients and flavorful additions to your meals. When you get to know the microgreens you grow and make notes on what you do during the growing process, you will soon learn how to take the best care of them. Start out with some easy microgreens, so you get the hang of it and then experiment with flavors you’ll use more! We have created another article that takes you through the entire growth process and that is interesting reading. It will help you to understand the steps and make you prepared for success.
Microgreens are not just for adding fancy garnish; they can be excellent contributing members to your plate! Growing them yourself makes it that much more rewarding and help you to eat a nutritious diet!